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Happy Halloween



Happy Halloween everyone!  Even the chickens are getting treats.  I ordered a few things including more Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth, a treat ball, nesting box blend and a pest pistol.  Boy are those chickens spoiled! 

I love the diatomaceous Earth.  See my October 2010 entry Fossils for Chickens for more information about it.  I also ordered the girls a treat ball.  It can be stuffed with all types of vegetables and goodies to keep the girls occupied from boredom.

I have always been intrigued by the nesting box blend.  I thought, why not give it a try!  Here is their exact description of the nesting box blend.  I could not have said it better.

Think of this as a daily way to ward off the creepy crawlies and bugs that love to bug your chickens. Adding Nesting Box Blends to nesting boxes during regular scheduled cleanings keeps your chickens calm and free of mites, lice etc. Can be used along with Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth. Contains 100% organic, fair trade herbs, flowers and oils blended for a soothing and bug free egg laying experience.
Younger chickens often experience stress when they begin to lay eggs. Even older experienced layers can feel stress from time to time. Allow this special and caring formulation to benefit laying hens of all ages – your eggs will be even more wonderful!

You will find all of the above mentioned treats at http://www.treatsforchickens.com/


So with that said, hope you find yourself with some human treats of your own on this very special Halloween day.

Chicken and Tortellini Soup with Herbs

Yes, we do eat chicken.  We just don't eat our pet chickens.  Here is a quick and yummy recipe that is terrific for another fantastic fall weekend.  It is a quick one pot meal that your family is sure to love.  Try it on Halloween night if you are short for time before trick or treating.  It is a Tilly's Nest original that I'm sure you will love!

Ingredients:

2 cloves garlic--minced
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup carrots--cut into 1/2"pieces
1 medium onion--diced
1/2 cup celery--cut into 1/2" pieces
1 store bought rotisserie chicken--remove chicken from bones and cut into bite size pieces
6 cups chicken stock
2 cups fresh cheese tortellini or 1 cup of dried.
1 tbsp dried parsley
1 tbsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp black pepper
salt to taste

Preparation:

1.  In a large stock pot over medium heat, saute the garlic, onions, celery and carrots in the olive oil until translucent. 

2. Next add the chicken, parsley, thyme and black pepper to the vegetables in the stock pot.  Cook for an additional two minutes. 

3.  Next add the chicken stock and the tortellinis.  Simmer for 15 minutes then serve.

Serve with crusty french bread.

A Simple Twist of Fate

This morning I was out opening up the girls.  I can't call them the girls anymore because from the coop was the distinct call of a baby rooster learning to crow. "OOO OOOO DOO".  Pathetic but true, my little black Silkie Bantam, Chocolate is another rooster.  (Strangely enough, there have been tales of female hens developing male characteristics.  The hens stop laying eggs, crow and grow spurs!) 

My heart sank again.  The reasons were many.  Probably the thought that I had to rehome him was the saddest.  You see, Chocolate was the runt until Peanut left.  Interestingly, he never really grew.  Despite all the others in the flock his growth was almost stunted.  However, once Peanut left, Chocolate had a growth spurt.  He has now surpassed his sister silkie, Feathers, and started to grow a larger comb and wattle.

In my heart of hearts, I do have to honestly say that I had my suspicions early on.  Peanut and Chocolate were always doing the "rooster square-off dance", Peanut was always picking on Chocolate and the fact that he although healthy, was not growing.  When I compared Chocolate to Feather, I noticed that Feather's comb is almost non-existent although she does have a wattle. Chocolate definitely has a comb! Their feathering is almost identical and so are their blue earlobes.

Chocolate is one of my favorite chickens.  He is a complete love.  Docile and gentle, he loves to hop into my lap and nuzzle into my body.  He loves to be stroked and even closes his eyes in contentment.  I can always count on him to come visit me first.  I really do love that little guy!

But then, I had an epiphany about rehoming him...My neighbor has a dog that barks all the time.  A rooster's noise is not that much different.  My kids love him and he loves them.  He is a sweet boy who is earning his keep in the hen house.  He guards the girls at night by keeping watch out the window.  When it is raining, he stands at attention like a soldier at the door waiting for the rain to let up.  He lets all the other girls out of the coop in the morning before him, how chivalrous!  There are also no laws about roosters in our town.  There has been talk about creating ordinances in regards to chickens and roosters but nothing so far.

So for now, he will stay.  As long as he continues to be affectionate and sweet,  I will do whatever is necessary to keep him in the family.

Chocolate free-ranging with his girls today

Book Review: The Complete Idiot's Guide to Raising Chickens

Rating ****

This 189 page book was recently released in April 2010.  It is very basic but covers a ton of information.  I love that it has interesting chicken facts laced amongst the text.  These little pearls of useful and whimsical information are great for cocktail parties.

Topics covered in this book include an argument to raise chickens, chicken history and breed information, starting out with chicks, coop and run requirements, growth and development, butchering, health and nuisance control.  Other interesting areas covered are money making, exploring poultry clubs and museums, an organic section, and a section on eating and preserving eggs.

The areas that set this book apart to me are the chapter on raising chickens organically, understanding chickens and making money.  I am not planning on becoming a millionaire selling eggs from my small flock but for those who have room to expand, this chapter definitely gets the wheels turning.  The organic chapter, although very basic, really demystifies what "organic" means in terms of raising chickens.  The industry is sneaky and tries to fool the consumer.  This chapter is one of the best reasons to buy this book.  I also love the chapter on understanding chickens.  It does help to explain why they do the things they do.

Again, I was disappointed with the health section.  It was just too short.  The information is a quick overview at best and would probably help me to realize if there was a problem but no real ways of fixing it.

Overall, this book is a very simply written and easy to read.  You can breeze through this book in a couple of days.  You cannot rely on it entirely for all information that you will need but it is a great place to start.  This is especially true for those who do not have chickens yet.  It might just help you to decide if chickens are right for you.

So You Want to Raise Backyard Chickens: 2 of a 5 Part Series

 



heat lamp


chick waterer

chick feeder
GOING SHOPPING

Preparing for the arrival of the chicks was so exciting!  It was almost like Christmas.  We counted down and with each passing day, our anticipation rose!   In our household, it was a family affair.  I ordered the chicks in February for a June delivery date.  Why did I wait so long?  Well, I had a few reasons.  I wanted to do more research about their permanent coop and run.  I also knew that the chicks would grow very quickly.  In fact, at about 6 weeks they look like mini-chickens!  I wanted the kids participate in the experience as much as possible, so I waited until summer vacation.

About one week prior to the chicks' arrival, we went to our local Feed Store.  We are very lucky to have a terrific store about 10 minutes away that carries all types of livestock products.  They also carry Organic Chicken Feed!  I am a lucky girl and so are my chickens.  I think that one of the biggest decisions that you will have to make is whether you are going to feed your chickens organically or with a traditional non-organic feed.  We chose to go organic.

The USDA organic certification was never truly an option for our family.  The certification process is extremely rigorous including inspections, soil sampling and documentation.  The soil has to have no added chemicals for the past 7 years!  It was too much for me with my small backyard flock.  So, we decided that we would feed them organically and not worry so much about the rest.

Organic feed contains pure ingredients. They do not contain medications, heavy metals, animal by-products or preservatives.  There is also a variety of non-organic feed on the market.  My suggestion is to start reading the labels.  There are good feeds out there that are non-organic.  However, some non-organic feeds contain antibiotics, arsenic, ground up-dead chickens, animal by-products, chicken litter and feather meal.  YUCK!  It's no wonder that I started to think about my food sources!

The next choice is deciding whether to feed your chicks medicated vs. non-medicated feed.  You can read more about making a choice here. You can also read more about Coccidiosis here. Some hatcheries also vaccinate against Marek's Disease. I highly recommend vaccinating your chickens for Marek's if this is available to you. The hatcheries do not vaccinate the Silkie Bantams.  So, half of my flock was vaccinated and the other half was not.  I fed them the non-medicated organic chick starter and they all turned out fine.  I credit this to paying close attention to keeping the brooder clean and dry. Good hygiene is very important.

Every manufacturer will recommend on the label how long to keep your chickens on a particular type of feed.  From chick starter, they will go onto a grower feed, then a layer or broiler feed, depending on your final intentions.  Once you decide on the feed, the rest is pretty straight forward.   Our feed is supplied by www.greenmountainfeeds.com.

At the store, you will need to purchase a chick starter feed, a chick feeder, chick waterer, pine shavings, grit, a thermometer and a heat lamp with a 250 watt heat bulb.  I recommend purchasing one waterer and one feeder per 6-7 chicks.  The rest you can devise from household items and create your brooder.  I'll tell you how in my next part of this series.

Click here for part 3.



So You Want to Raise Backyard Chickens: 1 of a 5 Part Series

So, how do I go about this, you ask? Well if you're like me you read everything you can get your hands on, check the internet and dive head first into something figuring you'll just troubleshoot along the way.  However, there is some planning to optimize your chicken experiences that will make life easier.  So, lets start at the beginning.  How do I get the chickens?

Ordering the Flock

There are a few things that you need to ask yourself before you start.

1.  Do I want roosters?
2.  Do I want baby chicks or full grown egg laying hens?
3.  How many chickens do I want?
4.  What type of climate do I live in?
5.  What do I want my chickens for?  Pets, meat, eggs, or a combination?

There are many ways to get chickens.  Many hatcheries have mail order services.  The United States Postal service has been delivering live baby chicks in the mail since the early 1900s!  Depending on where you live, you can order day old baby chicks on-line from hatcheries.  Chick quantities depend on how fast they can deliver your chicks.  Chicks will huddle to keep warm.  The greater the number of chicks, the longer they can maintain their heat.  Thus if you are far from a large city, you may need to order a larger number of chicks.  Once hatched, baby chicks can survive 3 days without food and water because they ingest part of the egg prior to hatching.  My minimum order for Cape Cod was six.  We are about one hour from Boston. 

Once the baby chicks hatch, they start their journey.    I chose to have my birds sexed because I wanted all females.  YOU DO NOT NEED A ROOSTER TO GET EGGS.  All pullets, female chickens under one year of age, are born with about 4000 eggs.  Pullets start to lay eggs as early as 20 weeks to about one year.  Based upon the breeds you select, some are better at laying eggs than others.  I wanted chickens that were friendly, docile, good egg layers and cold hardy; thus the Austrolorp, Buff Orpingtons and the Silkie Bantams.  Note:  The Silkie Bantams lay smaller eggs.  Two of their eggs is equal to one standard breed's egg.

I paid extra to get all pullets.  I also paid for them to be vaccinated for Marek's disease.  With the sexing and the vaccination, each bird was on average about $12 and it is about $30 to overnight the package.  I ordered my chicks from http://www.mypetchicken.com/ .  I loved the experience.  They have a sexing guarantee.  They also have a terrific tool to help select your breeds.  I highly recommend them and will be placing an order for more chicks in the Spring of 2011.

The other option is to purchase egg-laying pullets.  Yes, you do get instant gratification.  If not stressed, the pullets will lay eggs immediately.  However, you must be careful because it is difficult to determine the age of the chicken and it's overall health.  By researching on the internet, you should be able to find a reputable local farm or vendor that sells egg-laying pullets.

So now that you know about ordering chicks, how about getting ready for those chicks?  What are you going to order?

Click here for Part 2.

My 3 day old baby chicks

A Surprise Visit from Peanut, Well Sort of...

I have a good friend whom I have grown even closer to because of our love for chickens. She helped Peanut for a week before he was rehomed.  I was afraid that he was going to be too disruptive with his cock-a-doodle dooing every 5 minutes.  Once he figured out how to do this, he was non-stop!  I was sure my neighbors were going to complain.

My friend agreed to take him.  She lives in a wooded area of Cape Cod and has a large flock.  She has two roosters and about 10 hens.  So, Peanut went to Camp Chicken at her house.  He stayed about 2 weeks and loved the attention from the new girls.    He was never formally introduced to the flock and remained partitioned off from the rest.  They could however talk and see each other through the chicken wire.  Her Buff Orpington, Fuzzy,  really took a liking to him.  Dusky, her Silkie Rooster mix, did not care for Peanut.  One day, Peanut escaped from his enclosure.  He was loose in the large run with all the other chickens.  All of the hens retreated except for Fuzzy.  They had made a love connection!   Upon my friend's discovery of this escape, she said Dusky was standing by the entrance to the hen house and crowing, as if to say, "Stay away from my girls!"   Who knows how long this chaos lasted? 

Once Peanut was returned to his enclosure he remained at Chicken Camp for a few more days.  We took him to his new home on the farm and that was it, or so I thought....

Little did I know, my dearest friend had taken some photos.  Yesterday, I drove up the drive and saw two little squares folded in tissue wrap.  She had made Peanut t-shirts for the kids!  It has been about 2 weeks now since rehoming him.  My eyes welled up with tears at seeing these adorable shirts and Peanut in all his glory.  It was nice to see him again, even if it was on a t-shirt.

Meatsauce and Fresh Homemade Pasta

Italian cooks have been making fresh pasta for a long time.  Although a very simple recipe, it does take some time.  I thought on a cool fall Sunday evening, this might be just what hits the spot.  Most Italian cooks just know how to make the fresh pasta.  They don't use recipes for the pasta.  They just know what looks and feels right.  It is basically eggs and flour that are gradually incorporated into each other.  You start with a clean flat surface and a few cups of flour.  In the flour you make a well and add a few fresh eggs.  The eggs are gently mixed with the edges of the flour until it is all combined.  You can either roll out the finished pasta dough with a rolling pin and cut with a knife or if you have a pasta machine you can make all kinds of pasta.  Remember, cooking time will be quicker than using a dried pasta product.    I wanted to include my own personal meatsauce recipe as well.  The fresh pasta recipe is courtesy of Mario Batali and can be found on the Food Network website.  www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/mario-batali/fresh-pasta-recipe/index.html
Feel free to use the store bought pasta and sauce as well, I won't tell and I do this all the time, when I need to serve a dinner in less than 30 minutes to my family.

TILLY'S NEST MEATSAUCE

Ingredients:

1 pound 90/10 ground beef
1 medium diced onion
1 medium green pepper chopped into small pieces
3 cloves of garlic--minced
1 tbsp of dried parsley
1 tbsp of dried basil
olive oil
salt and pepper
IF YOU HAVE TIME, do this next
1   28 ounce can of crushed tomatos
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
IF YOU DONT HAVE TIME, skip the above and do this instead
1   32 ounce jar of prepared pasta sauce.  I use Classico Tomato and Basil 

Preparation:

1.  On the stovetop in a large pan over medium heat, drizzle the pan with olive oil and add the garlic, onions and green pepper.  Cook until vegetables are softened.

2.  Next add the ground beef to the pan and cook through.  Drain the fat.

3.  IF YOU HAVE TIME, add the crushed tomatos, salt and pepper.  Simmer for 45 minutes.  IF YOU DON'T HAVE TIME, then instead, add the jar of prepared pasta sauce heat through for 10 minutes and serve.  Add salt and pepper to taste.



FRESH PASTA

Ingredients:

3 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
4 extra-large EGGS

Preparation:
Mound the flour in the center of a large wooden cutting board. Make a well in the middle of the flour, add the eggs. Using a fork, beat together the eggs and begin to incorporate the flour starting with the inner rim of the well. As you incorporate the eggs, keep pushing the flour up to retain the well shape (do not worry if it looks messy). The dough will come together in a shaggy mass when about half of the flour is incorporated.
Start kneading the dough with both hands, primarily using the palms of your hands. Add more flour, in 1/2-cup increments, if the dough is too sticky. Once the dough is a cohesive mass, remove the dough from the board and scrape up any left over dry bits. Lightly flour the board and continue kneading for 3 more minutes. The dough should be elastic and a little sticky. Continue to knead for another 3 minutes, remembering to dust your board with flour when necessary. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and set aside for 20 minutes at room temperature. Roll and form as desired.
Note: Do not skip the kneading or resting portion of this recipe, they are essential for a light pasta.
IF YOU DON'T HAVE TIME, cook 1 pound of store bought pasta according to the package directions.

Chicken Bonding

I never thought that the chickens would also extend into my social life.  I cannot tell you how many times I have been able to break the ice, warm a chill to a room and create new friendships based upon my chickens. 

Talking about the chickens always surprises people.  "Really, you have chickens?" "Where do you keep them?"  So many of these types of questions are always fun.  People are always taken back by the fact that I have chickens in my backyard.  "Oh they're so dirty."  Well, not really.  I am not on a farm with a pig sty in the back.  They are more like keeping a rabbit, somewhere between a cat and a dog.  Their area is realtively clean with minor maintainance. If you have any odors, there is a problem somewhere or it just rained like crazy and everything is soaked.  The birds themselves are clean too.  They do a great job at preening their feathers and the only time they needed help from me was when they had pasty butts as chicks!

It is also terrific to meet someone with chickens too.  All types of people keep chickens from the highest class imaginable to the immigrant population raising the birds for the table.  Chickens reach everyone.  I am surprised when people respond that they too have chickens.  Conversations just seem to flow from there, much like comparing and bragging about your own children.  People compare breeds, personalities, techniques and even consult each other about problems. 

A few times now I have arranged a playdate for my kids at a new friend's house.  After spending sometime there, I hear what I think is a rooster.  I ask, "Do you have chickens?"  and they say YES!!  Like most people, I do not suspect it.  The coop and run are not in plain view.  Sure enough though, upon further exploration either tucked back behind some large rhodedendrons or in a corner niche to the side is the coop and run.

Discovering and exploring a coop set-up that is not your own is sometimes like a kid in a candy store.  I love to see how other people do things.  What are their issues?  What are their successes?  How are their birds laying?  Where do they lay?  Sometimes the coops are rustic created out of an old dog house and sometimes I feel like I am entering a chicken Taj Mahal.

However, my favorite times are when the FedEx or UPS guys come to deliver a package and get a kick out of the chickens.  I love their surprise and how the regular drivers always inquire about the girls and pay them a quick visit before they leave. 

Perfect strangers are becoming friends over one common bond...the chicken.

Fossils for Chickens?!

Diatomaceous Earth!  Diatomaceous Earth or DE is really a miracle worker. What exactly is it?   DE consists of fossilized microscopic hard-shelled algae called diatoms. It comes in a very fine powder and can be a real preventative as well as curative for many chicken ailments.

The most important thing when you want to use DE with your chickens is that you purchase FOOD GRADE DE.  The great thing about DE is that it gets rid of unwanted pests naturally.  It is an organic technique that has been utilized by farmers for quite some time.  DE works by a process called desiccation.  It's sharp microscopic edges cut into the bugs' outer body skeletons and causes them to dehydrate.  DE kills ticks, fleas, mites, digestive worms and keeps pests away from food and out of the coop.  It also provides a wide array of trace minerals to your chicken's diet.  It is also safe to use in your gardens for natural pest control, great for free ranging flocks.

So how do I use it?  Well I sprinkle the DE into the girls' food supply.  You can add up to 2% of their diet.  They injest the DE.  Some folks say that it has deworming properties.  The verdict is still out on this one because when DE gets wet, the sharp edges of the algae are believed to be smoothed.  However, I still feed it to the girls because they are still getting the valueable trace minerals.

In the newly cleaned coop I sprinkle it into the corners, edges, in the nesting boxes and onto the floor as well as the roosts prior to adding a fresh new layer of bedding.  I would imagine if you are utilizing the deep litter method, you could add more DE as you add fresh bedding.  As the girls, tidy and rearrange the shaving on the floor, the DE is mixed into the shavings.  I do have to say, that I never have had a pest problem inside the coop and we live in the woods with lots of bugs!

As for the girls, I add the DE into the area of the run where their dust bath is located.  About once a week, I sprinkle a scoop into the dirt and let the girls frolic in it.  I try to do this when the run is dry, because of the theory about wet DE.  I want to keep those microscopic edges sharp to kill all those little bugs that can drive chickens crazy.  About once a month, I also dust the chickens myself.  I dust under their wings, their fluffy bottoms, and their chests.

Now, here was my question.  Where can I find this stuff?  I have 2 sites that I would trust for the Food Grade DE.  I am sure there are more, but their prices are reasonable.   The first is www.treatsforchickens.com. I ordered from www.treatsforchickens.com about 2 months ago, and still have a little over half the bag left.  This product as been a terrific addition to my backyard chicken experience.  I love that something easy and natural  is so beneficial.

Update 6/11/2013: Please click here to read an article that I wrote for Community Chickens on DE- chock full of even more information, including precautions that you should take if using DE with your flock.

References:http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21673156

RESULTS OF THE USE OF CODEX FOOD-GRADE DIATOMACEOUS EARTH WITH POULTRY, C.S. Mangen, DVM, San Diego, California
Using two groups of birds with each group consisting of 8,000 white leghorn caged layers in their pullet year which had been producing for five months. After feeding the test group 60 lbs. of diatomaceous earth per 1-1/2 tons of standard mixed feed (17% protein) for 2-1/2 months the following results were observed: 1. There appeared to be less flies around the test group. 2. Droppings are of a drier consistency, making for easier cleaning of the house. 3. Seventy-five percent less deaths in the test group. 4. A 2-4 case per day increase in egg production by the test group compared to the control group.

Book Review: Storey's Guide to Raising Chickens

Rating:  *****

Storey's Guide to Raising Chickens by Gail Demerow, a 438 page book, should be considered, in my opinion, the chicken keeper's bible.  It is packed with so much information in this newest fourth edition.  It is terrific for beginners as well as advanced chicken keepers. 

Various areas covered include breed selection, shelter selection, chicken maintainance, layer management, eggs, chick care, meat raising and preparation (Not for me, I could never eat my girls!), and showing your chickens.

The strongest areas of the book in my opinion are the sections on predators and predator prevention, chick care, set-up directions for new chicken owners and breed selection. 

The health care area gives broad overviews but does not go into many details including diagnosis and treatment.  I wish that there was more information here.  The lack of information about health care may possibly be because the author has another book The Chicken Health Handbook.  I personally have not seen this handbook but I am considering purchasing it. 

Last winter, I think I read about 7 different books on raising chickens prior to the chicks' arrival.  All of them included the same bits and pieces about chicken raising.  However, this book had the most topics included that anyone wanting to know something about chickens could go to.  This book is a great starting off point and I highly recommend it.

Dealing with a Sick Chicken

Every morning when I let the girls out, I always watch them for a few minutes.  Mostly to make sure everyone is feeling good, happy and acting themselves.  I pick each of them up almost on a daily basis.  Just to check-in.  About 2 months ago, Tilly was not acting her normal self.

Tilly seemed sad.  Her head and tail were both down.  She was sluggish and not pecking at the ground like everyone else.  I continued to watch her for a few days and she became worse.  She started sneezing, breathing like she had something stuck in her throat and had a runny nose.  Tilly was definitely ill and not getting better.  I became worried for a few reasons.  First, she was our head hen.  We like her in that order.  She keeps the girls calm and when she free ranges, she never goes too far away from the coop.  Second, she was just a baby.  She had so much more life to live.  Third,  we were raising them entirely organically.  This meant no medications.  Fourth, she was a beloved pet.

Initally I read all my chicken references on hand.  The diagnosis was still unclear.  Cape Cod being small and rather rural, I was unsure that I could even locate a veterinarian with chicken experience.  After making a few phone calls, I was able to reach a vet that does treat birds and has started to spread over into the realm of chickens.  She was about a half hour away.

I caught Tilly, and put her in a Pampers box.  She was quiet the entire way.  While checking in and waiting in the waiting room, she only wanted to be held in my lap.  She nuzzled into my arm and closed her eyes.  This was not my Tilly.  Finally, we saw the vet.  After her exam, it was not entirely clear as to what was going on.  Therefore, the vet decided to deworm the entire flock and give Tilly an antibiotic for a respiratory infection.

Tilly was on the antibiotic for 5 days.  By day 4 she seemed to be getting better.  Afterwards though, I noticed that her crop became rather enlarged, soft and squishy.  After extensive internet research, I figured out that Tilly developed a sour crop from the antibiotics she was on for her respiratory infection.  I subsequently treated her with Nystatin for 10 days.

Tilly's crop was distended for about 1 month.  It has since then made a full recovery.  This is the point at which I started giving the chickens the weekly yogurt and adding apple cider vinegar to their water supply.  I feel that both are adding to the overall digestive health of our chickens.

What about raising the chickens entirely organically?  Well sometimes life takes those unexpected turns for the worse.  If I hadn't given her the antibiotics which did violate organic chicken raising, then we would not have Tilly.  The antibiotics saved Tilly for that I am sure.  We still have our chickens on an organic feed.  So our eggs will have an organic component.  I'm just glad that Tilly is still with us.

My kids love this easy Banana Bread

So my both of my children's schools are peanut free and one is totally nut free.  My dilemma is that my kids are peanut butter fanatics.  Both of my kids bring their lunches to school, so creating unique nut free lunches offers me up a challenge.  I started baking breads.  They are easy and pack in hidden nutrients and the kids love them.


This recipe is an adaptation of one found in Pillsbury's Best of the Bakeoff.  It has one egg in it, thus it's relativity to the site.  Plus it is just too awesome not to blog about.  The preparation time is about 10 minutes and baking time about 50 minutes.

Enjoy!--Tilly's Nest

Banana Bread

Ingredients:

1 and 3/4 cups of flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3-4 medium mashed ripe bananas
1/4 softened butter
2 tablespoons of orange juices OR 1 teaspoon of lemon juice
1 EGG

Preparation:

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour a loaf pan.

2.  In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients and mix on medium speed for 3 minutes.

3.  Pour batter into loaf pan.

4.  Bake on center rack for 50-60 minutes depending on your oven.  A toothpick should come out clean when inserted into the middle of the bread.  Cool for 10 minutes.  Then remove from pan and place on cooling rack.

5.  Once completely cooled, wrap tightly and store in the refrigerator.  The bread should stay good for 1 week.

Yogurt Mondays!

Did you know that chickens love yogurt??  It is such a fabulous food for them.  I feed them plain organic yogurt with live and active cultures. ( It is important that they don't get any extra sugar.)  When they see me coming you should see the commotion.  It is crazy!  There is so much yogurt flinging and they get it everywhere.  Some of the added benefits of adding yogurt to your chicken's diet include calcium for egg laying, promotion of a healthy digestive system and assisting in the balance of the "good" gut bacteria.  Next time when your girls seem bored...try some yogurt.

Beautiful Fall Sunday


Our 2 black silkies
We went out to the Wellfleet Oyster Festival today.  We took some pictures along the way by the Massachusetts Audubon Sanctuary in Wellfleet. 

Before I left today, I put a pumpkin in the girls run.  Here are some pictures of the girls exploring the pumpkin.  So far they have only eaten through the top.  I can't wait to see what they do when they get to the seeds!  I think we all enjoyed the weather today, especially the chickens.  It has been getting so cold in the mornings and at night.  That reminds me…I need to get moving with the winterization before my top choices sell out.

Feathers peering and pecking at the pumpkin



Tilly, Oyster Cracker and Sunshine

Blackfish Creek Marsh

Do they understand me?

I really do believe so.  Before I had chickens, I wasn't really sure how smart they were.  I thought that they were cute and all and had come to the conclusion that would be enough for me to start raising them.   All the girls seem smart.  Tilly knows her name.  When they are free ranging outside and I do not see them immediately, I just have to call her name and she comes out from where she is.  It is so adorable because as head hen, wherever Tilly goes, the others follow.  They all run to me so fast.  Sometimes giddy in fact.  But contrary to belief, they are not looking for food, they are sometimes just looking for love.

Yep,  my chickens love to be loved.  They each take their turns.  Depending on their personalities, some like to be held and snuggled like little babies and some just love a good stroking of their sides, back and underbellies.  You may even think that I am crazy, but I love the way they smell too.  They smell warm, sweet and comforting.  Next time you are with your girls, give them a smell.  I promise it will warm your heart.

The girls also recognize their favorite treats.  I can put many different ones inside of the run but they always like broccoli, grapes and strawberries the best.  At first, I thought that it was the red coloring of the strawberry that they were attracted to but the other treats proved me wrong.

The girls also can spot danger.  Oyster Cracker always serves as the lookout.  When she sees something out of the corner of her eye, she lets out almost a low growl of a dog.  The chickens stand perfectly still and stop whatever they are doing.  I can pick them up easily when they are doing this because they are just like lawn statues. 

They have their own language.  I am trying to decode it but they all understand it.  Some of their favorite chicken lines express happiness, I found something, don't do that to me, come here, follow me, where are you,  let's snuggle.

I believe that some of these things are born into them and they just being chickens know how to do these things, but I truly do believe that they experience emotions, have a pretty high level of intelligence and have social rules and orders.

Home Sweet Home


So, as I am sure many of you have searched and searched for the perfect coop for your girls.  I did too!  I spent months searching and deciding whether I should order plans, concoct one from various designs to build or just order something.

Initially, I ordered a small coop from http://www.mypetchicken.com/.  However, it was soon apparent that it was rapidly being out grown.  I also found that I had to replace the cheaply made hardware if I was going to protect the chickens from any predators.  This first coop is now used as a nursery as well as a place to quarantine anyone who doesn't feel well or is injured from the rest of the flock. 

It took me about 3 months of intensive searching to find ultimately what I believe to be the perfect chicken coop.  A man named Dan Cohen from Michigan has a company online called
www.greenchickencoop.com



He makes the coops from scratch with really great sturdy materials.  The coop itself is really terrific.  It takes only 5 minutes to clean out.   The floor inside has industrial grade linoleum that makes even the most caked on doo doo scrape right off!  When the eggs come, the handy little door opens to reveal 3 nest boxes.  I added the extra windows in the front with plexiglass slide-outs in warm weather and a small plexiglass vent on the side.  Dan truly was extremely thoughtful in creating this home for the girls.

The run comes in 3'x 6' sections.  You can order them seperately.  I ordered 3 sections to create a 6'x9' run.  Just perfect for 6-8 standard size breeds.  All the screening on both the coop and the run are 1/2 inch hardware cloth as well.  Often during the middle of a beautiful day, I find the girls lounging in their house.  They love it.

The area where we live on Cape Cod is known for predators.  We have racoons, foxes, coyotes, fisher cats, oppossum and owls.  I purchased additional hardware cloth and dug a 12" trench around the run.  I buried the wire around the entire run and folded the top into the run area as well.  I hope this will be enough protection.  Time will tell.

Ham and Egg Quiche

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Ingredients:

1 premade pie crust
6 eggs
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup cooked diced ham
1/2 cup milk
salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

1.  In a glass pie plate, mold the pie crust to the bottom of the plate and mold the edges of the crust to resemble pie crust.
2.  In a large separate bowl, whisk together the milk and eggs.
3.  Stir the ham and cheese into the egg mixture until well combined.
4.  Pour the egg mixture into the pie crust.
5.  Bake for approximately 45 minutes or until cooked through and quiche is golden brown.

(If crust edges brown too quickly and start to burn, cover only those parts with aluminum foil, and continue to bake.)

Cooking times may vary based on individual ovens.

Serve with a green salad or a cup of soup.

The day we said Goodbye to Peanut

Here he is at 15 weeks.  Read about him here.

And then there were 5

In the early days, our favorite little chicken was Peanut.  Peanut was always so curious; the first to come to us, discover the newest addition placed into his tiny 2'x2' world.  Peanut always needed more care than the others in the beginning too.  Peanut was the one that I wasn't sure would survive.  Peanut seemed the weakest of them all on that first day, droopy and wobbly.  Over time, our love for Peanut blosssomed.  The kids loved holding Peanut.  Peanut would snuggle into our chests and sit for time on end.  Sometimes, we would even hear a pleasure trill!

Peanut is a Buff Silkie Bantam.  At http://www.mypetchicken.com/ you can pay extra to have your chickens sexed.  Many people do not want rooster for the various reasons. Most people will pay extra just to ensure that they will get only females. However, silkies are very difficult to sex.  Most hatcheries don't even attempt this.  However, http://www.mypetchicken.com/ does!  I paid extra for all females including the Silkie Bantams.

It wasn't until about week 10 that I had my suspicions.  Peanut soon began to grow so fast.  Peanut's waddle and comb were getting huge.  I read on the internet that you can be fooled by Silkies, that they often will look like one sex but turn out to be the other.  The other disturbing thing was that anytime I need to hold Peanut, I would be pecked.  At first the pecking was gentle, but as time went on it really could hurt depending on how you were gotten. 

One day, early in the morning, my husband was leaving for work and I was in the garage getting their food and I heard it.  From inside the coop, a pathetic, "OOO, OOOO, DOO."  Was I imagining things?  Then we heard it again.  I could not be sure who it was coming from.  Finally, after about a week I realized that it was Peanut.  Peanut was a rooster.

Over the next few weeks, Peanut turning out to be a rooster was becoming even more evident with each day that passed.  Again, I did research about keeping a rooster.  Currently, in our town, there are no regulations about keeping chickens or rooster.  Thank goodness for that.  I was just worried about his aggressive tendencies and our 2 little kids.  My husband and I decided that our rooster needed a new home.  I emailed many local farms on a whim and a farm off Cape about 40 minutes away agreed to take him.  There he will have about 100 hens to himself.  Oh, what a rooster's dream! 

It has now been about a week since we rehomed Peanut.  I do miss him so.  I miss his silly little antics, his trying to bully the hens, his curiosity, his gorgeous blue earlobes, and even his warm little body.  I do know that we made the right choice and he should be much happier it is just hard to say goodbye.  Just like a baby, he was mine since he was one day old.

Colder Days, Planning for Winter

This will be my first Winter with the girls.  Cape Cod doesn't get too cold, but it has really gotten me to thinking about the coop and run set up as well as freezing waterers and nasty weather ahead.  As a hobbist chicken raiser, we are not doing this on a very large scale.   Our maximum flock size will mostlikely be about 12 girls, 6 of those being bantams.  It is difficult to even find small feeders and waterers that are not hobbist size for adult chickens and most smaller versions are for little chicks.

My coop is 3'x4' and the run is 6'x9'.  I am currently using the plastic Little Giant 3 pound feeder.  I have placed it upon 2 bricks elevating it above the pine shavings in the coop.  The waterer is outside in the run.  That too is a Little Giant 2 gallon galvanized metal waterer. 

That being said, I am now looking into making the winter easy for the girls and for me too.  There are numerous options from heated pet bowls, plastic waterers with an area to plug and extension cord into, as well as a metal heater base for the waterers to sit upon.  The reviews are mixed on all choices.  Thus, here in lies the difficulties.  I guess this conversation will have to be continued...

When they were chicks

Here are the two Buff Orpingtons when they were 3 days old.  Still as curious as ever.   It is hard to believe that they look like full grown chickens within about 6 weeks.  They are on an organic feed from Vermont.  Who know there were so many options with the feed; mash, crumbles, pellets.  Our girls at 16 weeks are now on layer pellets.  They seem to be less messy and the girls don't mind. 

The Austrolorp, Tilly, is the head hen.  She has been at the pecking order since day 1.  It is amazing to see them grow.  She is a sweet gentle natured girl.  She is not the biggest anymore, but that does not seem to matter.  They all have unique personalities and funny quirks.  I never thought that I would ever love a chicken let alone all 6 of them.

In the beginning...

I became serious about raising chickens this past winter.  I really always was intrigued by them.  I however, was not sure what the necessary requirements were. Like any typical type A person, I read and read and read.  Finally, after talking to numerous people.  I ordered the girls from  http://www.mypetchicken.com/ .   I really had to wait a long time.  I ordered them in February but decided to have them delivered in June after school let out for the summer.  I did this for a few reasons.  One being that I had no where to put them.  Two, that I heard how quickly they grow and did not want my children to miss out.

I can clearly remember the post office frantically leaving 2 messages on my answering machine that day.  It was late June and hot.  I went as quickly as I could to the post office and when I arrived I was handed a peeping cardboard box.  It was about 12"x6"x6".  I drove so carefully talking to my box all the way in my best Mama hen impersonation. 

When I arrived home, I gently removed the lid and found huddled in the corner six tiny day old chicks.  Eager to meet their new family,  we taught them how to drink and eat and placed them under the heat lamp in soft pine shavings.  We had just met the newest members of our family:  Tilly, Oyster Cracker, Sunshine, Chocolate, Feathers and Peanut Butter.

Adventures in Raising Chickens

Coming soon....

Adventures with backyard chickens